Every issue we find an exciting new writer (or publisher) whom you should keep an eye on and ask them a few questions.
The Literateur is delighted to feature new publishing house Roast Books and the author of their latest release, A.C.Tillyer.
Roast Books was established in 2008 by Faye Dayan to meet the demand for unusual fiction using innovative new formats. They launched with Great Little Reads, a series of individual little novellas.
Their latest release, An A-Z of Possible Worlds by A.C.Tillyer, is a box set of 26 individually bound stories, one for each letter of the alphabet. They are set in a myriad of imagined places, including a former metropolis whose inhabitants have devolved into cannibalistic animals, an archipelago where an entire race are burying themselves alive and a golf course where only robots can play.
The box comes complete with a ‘Metro Mind Map’ to guide you on your journey around the possible worlds.
An A-Z of Possible Worlds can be pre-ordered from Amazon here. They will also be available soon at the London Review Bookshop. The Great Little Reads series can be ordered direct from www.roastbooks.co.uk.
In keeping with the metro mind map, the booklets seem to be designed to be easy to read while on the go, small and light enough to slip into a bag or a pocket. Would it be fair to say your books are designed for the ‘commuter market’?
Faye Dayan: I think they’re perfect for commuters but they definitely go beyond that. It’s quite a literary book so I’m hoping the market will be quite wide. It’s ideal for commuters but then again you could just take out one booklet every night and read it before bed.
A.C.Tillyer: My sister pointed out to me something that I hadn’t actually thought about. She’s in a reading group and she said it’s great because usually people complain if they have to buy a book that they don’t necessarily want but with this, everyone can read a different booklet at once.
Anne, what inspired you to come up with such an unusual idea?
AT: There was a time I had to commute out of London and the train journey was quite long. I’d just look out of the window and wonder what’s going on in that place. ‘Golf Course’ was the first one I wrote; the train passed a golf course and the golfers every day all looked exactly the same like they were robots. And I thought, come on you can write a story about this.
Then you start to think…the next one was ‘X Marks the Spot’, which was inspired by this tower block. So it started off as ideas from physical places.
And then it became more…what would happen if a whole population was made up of people who were ruled by one thing? So the others came from that.
Then halfway through I realised, oh I’ve nearly got an A to Z. I thought at some point I have to stop writing these things. I thought I’d limit myself to an alphabet. Otherwise I’d be writing about imaginary countries forever!
Some of the short stories in your collection seem to me to have enough scope and potential to make for full novels. Are you planning to expand any of them into novels or do you want to concentrate on the short story form?
AT: One of them used to be an idea for a novel and I had it as one of the stories crushed down into email format between people in order to cut it down. After Faye accepted the book, it was the one that I took out; I thought actually I’d like to write a full-length novel of that one. It never quite sat comfortably in there; it was the longest one. That’s the one I’m working on at the moment.
But yes, some of them could be novels. I remember thinking when I was writing them, god it would be so nice to write a full-length piece and then I wouldn’t have to worry about coming up with a whole new scenario when I got to a new letter!
I quite like the short story, I feel comfortable in it. But when I was sending these out, quite a few people were saying you have to write a full-length piece first. I felt a huge pressure to do that whereas now I feel like my natural home is the short story.
Anne, you have a successful career as a documentary film editor. Do you enjoy writing and film editing equally or is one closer to your heart?
AT: Well writing is something I’ve always done since I was about fourteen or fifteen. That’s my stamp collection if you like, which I’d just get on with.
I’ve always had a love for film, which is why I got into the whole documentary thing. If it’s a programme I really love then I wouldn’t care about working long hours.
But in some ways documentary editing is similar to writing: it’s still storytelling. You’ve got all this chaos, all these interviews and footage that is real life and you’ve got to pick out characters and stitch it altogether and make a story out of it.
In the literary world, innovations in the physical format of books are few and far between. Do you hope to change all that?
FD: I don’t think you can ever change a way that a book will look but if the content demands something that is a little bit more imaginative, something a bit different, then that’s justified. And that’s something that I’m definitely interested in doing more and more of. The A-Z, the alphabet dictated its own form and when Anne sent it in, it was in 26 individual little booklets, which just seemed perfect. It’s the ideal format for it so there was no reason to try to squash that into a traditional book.
In the press release it says that you want ‘to meet the demand for unusual fiction’. But is there a demand? I think there should be but…
I think that there is a demand. I mean traditionally there were only five to ten books that really come into the public’s attention. Yet there’s a whole world of books out there; there are many small independent publishers bringing out original books, which are often sidelined.
But now there are more book prizes and there are more ways in which the general readership will find out about these books. And people are always on the lookout for new and exciting things, so I think that there is a demand.
Are the booklets going to be sold individually at all?
FD: They’re going to be available as e-books, which you can download individually. I think it would be great if we could sell them separately. It’s just not very easy to distribute them. So there’s no plan at the moment but in the future I hope that we can sell them separately.
If all goes to plan we’ll also bring out a cheaper paperback version, which will be in a more traditional book format.
Could you talk me through future publications we can expect from Roast Books?
FD: There will certainly be more ‘Great Little Reads’, a series that came out last year. That will be an ongoing project.
The next book coming out that I’m excited about is also a bit unconventional. It’s a diary-type book with a companion guide that includes extra bits of information, which combines very disparate things like chick lit and vodka and recipes and the former Soviet Union.
You can read a full review of An A-Z of Possible Worlds here.